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Washing Machine Buying Guides

Direct Drive Versus Indirect Drive Washing Machines

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  Is Direct Drive Better

Are you being swayed by the pitch for a direct drive washing machine, we explain what it is


We often get asked about direct drive by people most often in relation to why or whether another washing machine is or is not a direct drive model which usually ends up in us having to explain the differences and sort the facts from fiction.

The hype around direct drive would have you believe that it was the answer to prayers and stops belts snapping or stretching etc. but, the reality is that these are actually very uncommon failures in a modern washing machine, By modern, we mean anything from about 1983 onwards.

A typical direct drive system, compared to a indirect drive is compared like this: 

A direct drive washing machine drum and an indirect drive drum

One manufacturer of direct drive washing machines goes so far as to claim that "The surface texture of the drum increases the amount of contact with the fabric. This creates a better washing action and removes more dirt and stains, giving clothes a deeper clean." Huh, how does what method is employed to turn the drum have any effect on the clothing inside it in that way? The answer is, in case you didn't realise, that it cannot and does not.

The marketing goes on to say that; "Sensors detect the weight of the load; adjust the temperature and measure out the correct amount of detergent for the best washing performance. This not only saves you water and energy but also ensures optimum washing performance."

Yes and most other washing machines on the market also have these sorts of sensors, certainly any half reasonable washing machine will have and all upper market models will do, probably more accurate as well. Basically, it's marketing rubbish there is no advantage at all here to be had by using direct drive over indirect drive.

  Selling Points Of Direct Drive

LG sell their direct drive washing machines on the following major points:

Less parts means less trouble, less vibration and less noise

What is failed to be pointed out is that you also need to add additional sensors and that there actually isn't less parts as such, just different ones.

LG’s Direct Drive works without a belt and a pulley to reduce wear and tear and increase durability

Not in our opinion, belts and pulleys on reasonable quality washing machines (which you can get for the same sort of money) are parts that very, very rarely fail. Where they do fail it tends to be through continual overloading etc. and a direct drive system is no less susceptible to failures from the same pattern of use.

The motor is attached directly to the centre of the drum via magnets making it more stable, therefore reducing vibration

Again, not in our experience. 

Vibration is caused from improper levelling or a poor installation and bad loading or overloading, not by the motor system employed. It could perhaps be argued that this is the case when you run the washing machine completely empty but, we don't know many customers in the real world that actually do that or, would even want to.

The brush has been removed which dramatically reduces the amount of friction and therefore makes the washing machine extremely quiet

This is true.

Using a brush-less drive motor does substantially reduce noise and also removes a point of failure (carbon brushes) but you can get exactly the same from a conventional induction motor, you don't need to be forced into a direct drive model to have this advantage. However, washing machines with induction motors tend to be more expensive than ones with a brushed motor (just like direct drive models) as they require a more expensive motor and an inverter card to drive the DC motor.

In short, there's a whiff of truth and a lot of marketing hype that doesn't stand up under scrutiny in the direct drive argument.

  The Bad About Direct Drive

A direct drive washing machine also has disadvantages. One of which is this:

LG Direct Drive washing machine stator assembly

As you can see the direct drive part is actually quite a chunky affair that stands quite proud of the rear of the washing machine drum. 

This, despite claims to the contrary, restricts the depth of the drum on a standard European sized washing machine meaning that the actual "usable" depth of the drum is limited. Where we see this coupled with constant claims of increased drum capacity it makes us wonder about the validity of the claims.

You can also see the additional "hall sensor" that is used additional mounting points and so on. There really aren't less parts as we said earlier, just different ones.

But, for some reason that we cannot seem to fathom or get to the bottom of, direct drive machines seem to suffer from more bearing failures. Quite why that is, we don't know but at a guess, it's got something to do with all that weight on the back of the drum.

  Direct Drive Washing Machine Stability

One of the big claims for direct drive is that it makes the washing machine more stable but, to be blunt, it isn't true.

It is also fair to say that, despite claims of increased stability that concrete weights are still employed to balance the machine internally. If it were a super duper slam dunk cure then it wouldn't need those you would think but, you'd be wrong.

The part of the wash process that creates the most vibration (and noise) is unsurprisingly the spin cycle where the machine ramps up to pretty high spin speeds and, when you have a bunch of clothes spinning around at those sorts of speed the forces that are in play are pretty big. This will cause the drum to oscillate to some degree and produce vibration. Without finding a way around the laws of physics you cannot avoid this, you can only control it and on more expensive machines you will see better weights, better dampers, better springs to soak up that vibration and make the washing machine more stable and quieter.

On cheap machines poor quality components are used and this leads to higher levels of vibration and noise.

It's common sense really and, direct drive or not has pretty much nothing to do with it. Direct drive certainly offers no quantifiable advantage in this area.

  Bottom Line

The bottom line is that there is little to no advantage to be gained from having a direct drive washing machine over an indirect drive one.

Despite the claims made for direct drive, under scrutiny, few if any actually stack up and make any sort of actual sense and, to anyone with even a modicum of engineering knowledge in relation to washing machines, it makes no sense at all and actually introduces other issues.

Which is probably the reason that most mainstream manufacturers, despite the technology having been around for a long time, have steered clear of the direct drive system and why not one of the top end manufacturers use it.

That pretty much says it all really.

But of course you are free to disagree with our assessment of the supposed benefits of direct drive, some people have in the comments below and we respect that however, to date, there has been no compelling case made for direct drive in our opinion only what appears to be largely the same sort of stuff we see in marketing materials to try to justify its existence.

It is not innovative at all, it’s just a different way of doing exactly the same thing.

Please Note

If you are looking for help to diagnose problems with your appliance please use the forums , the repairers will not see your comments here and you will not get a response.

direct drive
I\'ve had a direct drive from LG for 9 years and love it. This article just bashes direct drive. I have a family member who went through three \"top manufactures\" washing machine. Spending a bundle on them and they typically last no more than three years.
LG Washing Mc F1495BDA.ABWQEUK
We have had an LG direct drive washing machine for 2 years and now it has failed LG have said they cannot get the part and therefore will give us our money back! Sounds ok but we have been without a washing machine for over 2 months while they have deliberated about parts and getting approval to issue a refund. Now they have arranged for collection of the failed unit and said it could take 28 days from collection to return at their warehouse and then paying credit - we have 2 young children and 3 months without a washing machine is ridiculous and we haven\'t the money to find £795 for a new one in the mean time and have used up just about all our favours of doing our washing from our friends and family. In summary the treatment we have had, despite constantly chasing them, has been nothing short of disgraceful and I will never buy anything from LG again, let alone a direct drive washing machine - caveat emptor as they say, which translates into English as \'LG buyers beware, if your machine breaks, the level of service you will get is diabolical\'
no washing machine
Buy a used one off Craigs list. People moving all the time and selling $100. machines. I\'ve had my LG for 9 years.
Direct Drive
I have been delighted with my LG 7.5 kdirect drive. Prior to buying it I got through several machines but forked out a bit more on this one, which was 3400 + but cheaper than a Miele and it was money well spent. But after around twelve years or more use it is not going so well & I don\'t know whether to have it repaired or to buy a new one.
LG DD Washing Machine
Purchase LG washing Machine in 2000.
Bearings in Drum failed in 2012..after Heavy Use.
Purchased and replaced bearings myself costing £30..
(Altho bearing replacement is a full machine strip down..and not really recommended.)
Still going strong today...

DD motors
As DD really only applies to LG I\'d guess that the higher bearing failure was more due to poor sealing or bearings than the motor design.
The rub for me with this kind of motor is that they only offer a very minor advantage to the user but need expensive and complicated electronics to drive the motor. With the voltage spikes and surges common here you now have quite an expensive repair if the motor fails to turn. On other induction motor units like Siemens this is even worse as at least LG\'s parts are not mega bucks.
In my opinion unecessary!

Is direct drive better?
Agree with the statement that indirect drive machines are more problematic than direct drive units. Having owned many indirect washers thru the past 60 years can\'t remember any broke a belt or had a failed pulley.
Phil Lee
The reason why no other manufacturer uses the same direct drive system that LG uses has nothing to do with the fact it isn\'t any better or worse than a belt system, it\'s because LG hold the patent for the design preventing any other manufacturer using the same system http://www.google.co.uk/patents/US7750531

Now this doesn\'t prove direct drive is the better system, but it does the mean the argument \"...Which is probably the reason that most mainstream manufacturers, despite the technology having been around for a long time, have steered clear of the direct drive system and why not one of the top end manufacturers use it.\" is not valid, they have had to steer clear as they can\'t copy the system.

Actually Samsung use it too.

I\'m sure there\'s others around too so that patent may be limited.

Samsung DDD
Yeah I saw several Samsung Units with Digital Inverter System.

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